Potentially the first in a series called: Debi Watches Arrow So You Don’t Have To, because when I heard there was going to be a TV series called Arrow based on Green Arrow, I knew I was going to have to watch it, but my friends were all “don’t do this to yourself, Debi, you’re a canon purist, you’ll hate it, and at the very least, don’t make us watch a show about a rich white man having manpain!”
No, really, that’s how it happens. But I knew I was going to watch it anyway, and I promised many people who weren’t going to watch it that I would at least write about it so they didn’t have to.
The pilot: I thought it was pretty great!
The pilot opens with a low-saturation view of an island. This is Supernatural season one levels of saturation seriously. And running on the island is a beardy man in a green hood, all very wild-man-in-the-woods. He runs through the woods for a few seconds then lights a bonfire using a flaming arrow – for no reason I think than to show us how super competent he is with a bow and arrow.
I’m okay with this.
I told myself I wouldn’t judge it on faithfulness to the comics, that I’d watch it as a tv show in its own right and wouldn’t get excited or disappointed about being true to the stories I already love, but it’s pretty hard when it opens with such an obvious visual tribute to Green Arrow: Year One. Except, y’know, Jock is a better colorist.
And then there was a shot of Deathstroke’s mask on a stick. So I figure we’re in for a show full of shout outs. Which again, I’m okay with.
The beardy man, if you haven’t guessed, is Oliver Queen, and he tells us in DRAMATIC VOICEOVER that he’s been stranded on the island for five years, which means he was shipwrecked there in 2007, which is when Green Arrow: Year One was published. All that time, he’s had one goal: to survive.
“To survive and one day return home.”
(That’s two goals, but don’t be too harsh. We later find out Ollie dropped out of college, so it’s no surprise math isn’t his strong point.)
Get used to the dramatic voiceovers: they’ll become a theme. There’s no need to get used to the beard, though, because he’ll shave that off as soon as he gets rescued by fishermen who saw his bonfire, who rescue him and then ship him home to Starling City. He ends up with manly stubble, which is fine, I guess, but we all know that Oliver Queen has got to have a ridiculous beard to distinguish him from Batman.
Note to non-comic readers: Green Arrow has had two sidekicks in comics, neither related to him nor called Thea, but both went by the name Speedy. The second Speedy was a teenage girl. The first Speedy had problems with drugs. One of these has since been retconned out of continuity. I don’t know anything about the new backstory of the one who remained, or his relationship with Green Arrow.
Meanwhile, in a legal aid office in Starling City, there is an idealistic young lawyer whose best friend gets to open with “Come on, Laurel, we’re lawyers, not miracle workers,” and who gets to deliver lines like “You and I against an army. I love those odds.” This is Laurel Lance, Oliver Queen’s ex girlfriend and the sister of Sarah Lance, the woman he was sexing up on the boat when is crashed. She’s hopeful, idealistic and determined to bring down the bad guy, who in this case is Adam Hunt, “a man who swindled hundreds of people out of their homes and life savings.” I don’t think it matters exactly how he did this, only that he’s BAD, and Laurel’s going to BRING HIM DOWN.
NNCR: In pre-reboot continuity, Green Arrow had a long term relationship with Black Canary, aka Dinah Laurel Lance, who was idealistic, impulsive, and tended to run off and take on entire literal armies just because it was the right thing to do. She was the daughter of a cop and a superhero, and had no sisters. She has since been retconned out of continuity and replaced with her mother, Dinah Drake-Lance.
In more DRAMATIC VOICEOVER, Ollie introduces us to the first in a series of flashbacks, which as I’m not going to bother giving a full play by play, I’ll sum up with: He was on a boat shagging his girlfriend’s sister. His dad was also there, in the only way I could get that fact into a paragraph without implying weird threesomes. The boat crashed, Sarah died, and Queen snr, Ollie and Some Guy ended up on a life raft. Mr. Queen confessed to his son that he was a bad, bad man who had done bad bad things, and now Ollie has to get back home to right all his father’s wrongs. So no pressure, son. Then he killed Some Guy and committed suicide. Because there is no better gift a father can give his adult son than severe PTSD.
We get this story in clips over the course of the episode, but I can’t be arsed doing that.
Anyway, back in the now, we’re introduced to Ollie’s playboy BFF, Tommy Merlyn. Who just really really wants to catch his friend up with all the things he’s missed over the course of the five years, and hopefully take him out drinking and partying and meeting people. Tommy’s priorities are clearly being the best wingman a billionaire playboy could ever hope to have, and that includes lots of parties and lots of girls. Hooray for parties and girls, says Tommy! But also, Tommy is confused by Ollie’s lightning fast reflexes when Raisa trips, and notices that Oliver’s somehow picked up Russian. While alone on an island for five years.
NNCR: One of the most prominent members of Green Arrow’s small Rogue’s Gallery is an archer named Merlin. I strongly suspect this is more than a shout-out.
That night, Oliver has another flashback in the form of a traumatic dream, which ends when he nearly kills his mother when she and Walter wake him from the nightmare. Just in case we forgot that a) shipwrecks traumatise people and b) Ollie came back from the island with mad skillz. After all, we’re ten minutes into the episode and we haven’t seen any kickassery since the intro.
We’ll get to that.
So Tommy and Ollie go out to hit the town, and discuss a welcome home party, while driving through a crappy neighborhood that used to house the Queen Industrial Inc factory, which is now a deserted building, which I’m sure won’t be useful fifteen minutes later in the episode. Ollie finally meets up with Laurel, who is still mad at him for screwing her sister and indirectly leading to her sister’s death, and who wouldn’t be?
NNCR: Laurel’s case is taking a turn for the worse when they discover the judge will be Judge Grell. Mike Grell wrote Green Arrow during the late 80s, in a grimgritty take on the character that is widely considered some of the most iconic Green Arrow canon, and which also featured Black Canary. Grell’s run on the book appears to be influential on this take of the story.
Ollie has other things to worry about, though, as he and Tommy are jumped, knocked out and kidnapped by men in sinister masks. Oliver ends up ziptied to a chair, tasered and repeatedly interrogated about whether or not his father survived the crash, and whether he told him anything. At this point in the episode, the flashbacks haven’t gotten around to informing us that he did, but I spoiled that for you already. Oops.
“Yes he did,” Oliver says, checking that Tommy is still unconscious. “He told me that I’m going to kill you.”
Masked man laughs, thus narratively sealing his fate. “You’re zip cuffed to that chair.”
And then he breaks out the kickassery, which frankly was worth the weight. Oliver takes out the two armed men in a well-choreographed comic book style fight sequence that both frames him as a super competent fighter, but also doesn’t make it too easy for him. There’s parkour, face kicking, and even rope swinging. It’s kind of awesome, if you’re into that sort of thing. I, fortunately, am into that sort of thing. Notably, Ollie kills all three of the masked men. “No one can know my secret,” he says. His secret, presumably being that he is a badass.
Which, really, if that was going to be a thing, he should have checked harder that Tommy was unconscious.
NNCR: Ollie in comics generally follows the Batman rule, though he has killed a couple of times. Once by accident and then while rescuing Dinah from her torturers. While killing is a Big Deal in superhero comics, it’s called the Batman Rule, not the Green Arrow Rule, and it’s less of a big deal.
Back home, Oliver tells the police that he was rescued by a mysterious man in a green hood. He even gives a description of the hood in question, which implies he’s already planned out his secret identity and revenge deal. Tommy backs him up vaguely with “movement, blurry, stuff, vague.” Which is good for Oliver, but also suggests Tommy’s got a SECRET AGENDA and stuff.
The questioning detective is obviously skeptical and rude about everything, and suggests ransom for the motive of the kidnappers. “A parent will do anything to keep their child safe,” he says. We find out later that this is Det. Quentin Lance, father of Laurel, and of Sarah. So it’s understandable he doesn’t like our hero much.
About here, we also get to see Ollie’s new mask for “billionaire playboy Oliver Queen,” as cocky, sarcastic and blase about things. “Find the masked man and ask him,” he says. Raisa calls him on his change, because Raisa’s job in this show is obviously to be awesome and his mother figure.
“I want to be the person you always told me I could be,” he tells her.
Meanwhile, Moira has hired a bodyguard for her son. John Diggle.
NNCR: Green Arrow: Year One, the book that so far has been the most influential on this take, was written by Andy Diggle and illustrated by an artist who publishes under the pen-name Jock, which among other things, is a diminutive form of John.
I’ve been reading Greg Rucka’s Atticus Kodiak books recently, which at least at first is set in the Personal Safety Assistant community of New York. So when Diggle says “my ability to keep you from harm will outweigh your comfort,” I understood where he was coming from, even though it does weird to only have one PSA on retainer.
That still made it amusing when that very next second, Ollie rolled out of the back seat of the moving car, ditching Diggle to drive.
Time for another competence drive. Ollie breaks into the disused factory from earlier and sets up his new headquarters: An Arrow Cave, if you will. (But don’t.) There we get a full on training montage, complete with tool making and archery and Stephen Arnell’s lovely lovely torso.
I wasn’t a huge fan of Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye – through no fault of the actor or the character, I just didn’t have my competence kink hit hard by him. Arrow hits me right in the center of my competence feels, and this is why.
Dressed as the Man in the Green Hood (reminiscent of Smallville‘s Blue Blur, I guess, but I didn’t like that, either), Ollie goes after Adam Hunt – the Bad Guy Laurel has a case against. It turns out that Hunt’s crimes “go deeper than fraud or theft”, but it’s still not made obvious what. It doesn’t matter, he’s only a pilot bad guy to establish things like Ollie likes to jump people in parking lots, kill bodyguards who are only marginally more competent than Diggle, and tell Bad Guys to transfer money into a bank account by a fixed time tonight or they’ll regret it.
This is the first time we get to see the Costume, and it’s very – green and leathery. Probably good for the style of the show that the lights get turned down. I like it, it looks like Grell-era Green Arrow, but it’s definitely a superhero costume, there.
Unsurprisingly, Hunt has no intention of paying, and goes straight to the Quentin Lance, who is as cheerful about helping him out as he was Oliver. Poor guy; his city is full of assholes and he doesn’t even get a Batsignal.
While waiting for the money, Ollie gets the chance to break out his playboy persona fully at his welcome home party, standing on a table in the middle of a club and yelling “I miss Tequila!” It’s a very Nolanesque setup, and it’s a great one; tortured billionaire sets up a playboy persona to act drunk and disorderly and cocky to throw people off the scent. It’s more of a persona here than it is for comics!Ollie, but it’s fun to watch. Also fun to watch are two great scenes with the important women in Ollie’s life: Thea and Laurel.
Thea has a great little rant at him for being mad that she’s turning into a drug-taking playgirl.
“You died. My brother and my father died. You guys act like it’s cool, you can just forget about the last five years. I can’t. For me, it’s kind of permanently in there, so I’m sorry if I turn out to be some major disappointment, but this? Me? Is the best I could do with what I had to work with.”
It’s a beautiful scene between a messed up little girl and her doting, concerned brother whose secret if preventing him from properly talking to her, but is still doing the best he can.
And then Laurel turns up to be sweet and compassionate and as forgiving as possible and to get some closure on Sarah’s death, and give Ollie the chance to make a speech about how he hasn’t come off the island a better person.
“Stay away from me,” he says, “otherwise I’m just going to hurt you again. This time, it’ll be worse.”
I know, I know. Classic Spider-Man “Stay away from me, Mary-Jane, I’m no good!” drama, but hey, this is Laurel Lance. This is no way the end.
Diggle is still around being bodyguardy, and trying to make up for past mistakes. Especially at a time that Ollie needs to go and get the money he’s stealing from Hunt. It’s times like this, that you really need to shake your bodyguard, except Diggle is rapidly running out of patience for Ollie’s crap.
This time Ollie has to resort to actually knocking him out to get away.
It’s time for another action sequence, which like the other, is an absolute joy to watch. Ollie cuts through a whole collection of Hunt’s guards, including one man who takes a while to come down so I guess he’s going to be important later? Anyway, the best part of the scene is still a moment when he shoots past Hunt into the wall.
It’s very Burton’s Batman.
There’s a moment of high drama when we think the police are going to close in on the Man in the Hood, but he ziplines right into the building next door, which is where Ollie’s party is happening at his own request. It’s time for another moment of tension between Det. Lance, Oliver Queen and the eternally watching Tommy Merlyn. Funny how the same guy who rescued you would escape into your party.
Then Ollie turns to the party and loudly offers two million dollars to the person who can capture “a nutjob in a green hood!” because Oliver Queen? Is a cocky cocky sonofabitch.
Not until after the dramatic showdown do we discover what was in the arrow: a MAGICAL TECHNICAL GIZMO that just spirits money RIGHT OUT OF THE COMPUTER and deposits it into the accounts of all of Laurel and Joanna’s clients: the people involved in the class action lawsuit against Hunt in the first place.
Because in a show about Green Arrow? You’ve got to rob from the rich and give to the poor.
In wrap up, we have some deneuement scenes to reveal some twists and set up the rest of the season, which looks like it’s going to be a corker:
1) Laurel and Tommy are dating.
NNCR: Dinah Laurel Lance has notoriously bad taste in men. Other than continually getting back together with Oliver Queen, in comics, she was married to a mob informant, was crushed on by the Joker, and almost married Ra’s Al Ghul (Liam Neeson from the Nolan movies).
2) Oliver has A LIST of bad guys his father told him about, on which Adam Hunt was just one name. This will presumably be the plot of the first season.
3) The mid-episode abduction was arranged by Moira Queen, in an attempt to find out what her son knows about presumably the same sinister plots his dad told him all about.
NNCR: For most of Green Arrow‘s publishing history, his parents were unaffecting non-entities who died on safari before he was shipwrecked. The idea of a parental conspiracy was introduced in the last run before the reboot, written by J.T. Krul.
Tommy: “Dinah Laurel Lance, always trying to save the world.”
Laurel: “If I don’t, who will?”
It gets the feel of Diggle/Jock’s and Grell’s Green Arrow right on the nose. The action sequences were great, the dialog awesome and the characters intriguing. I could have handled a less choppy sequence of scening – the flashbacks didn’t need to be minute-long glimpses throughout the episode, and the relationships didn’t need to be revealed at the end as they were.
I’ll definitely be back next week.